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Snowy plover is taking care of her chicks.

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Capturing the Wild with Photographer Mary Lundeberg

Venice's best birding spots and expert tips from a dedicated conservationist

Venice resident Mary Lundeberg is a devoted bird and wildlife photographer whose work captures our area’s natural beauty while it also highlighting the importance of preserving our precious creatures and their habitats. Here, we talk to Lundeberg about her experiences, tips for birding photography, and her passion for conservation. 

Q: What makes Venice and her surrounding areas a special place for bird watching?

A:  We are so close to the Gulf, which is a wonderful environment for sea birds. At Casperson Beach, for example, you can see snowy egrets, ruddy turnstones, sanderlings, and other migratory birds that spend the winter here. Our area’s numerous parks and diverse habitats also attract a wide variety of birds, making it a bird watcher’s paradise.

Q: Why is the Venice Rookery such a special place? 

A:  The Venice Rookery is a small mangrove island with a constant stream of birds flying in and out. You can see great blue herons, egrets, and other birds roosting, building nests, and raising their chicks. Also, the birds at the rookery are accustomed to people, so they need less 'personal space,’ which allows for closer observation.

Q: What advice do you have for fledgling birdwatchers? 

A: First, find out all you can about the locations and what birds you are likely to see. Going out with a guide or ranger can be very helpful. Apps like Merlin, iBird Pro, and eBird provide valuable information on bird identification and locations. Pay attention to the birds’ behaviors and respect their personal space. In addition to early mornings, birds are very active around sunset, making dusk an ideal time for bird watching.

Q: What equipment do you recommend for bird watching and for wildlife photography?

A:  Start with a good pair of binoculars and a field guide to birds. A DSLR camera with a decent zoom lens can also be very helpful for bird photography. As you gain experience, you can invest in more specialized equipment.

Q: Would you explain about the importance of conservation photography and how it contributes to protecting wildlife in Florida?

A: Conservation photography is a powerful tool for education and advocacy. It helps to raise awareness about the challenges wildlife face and can inspire people to take action to protect our area’s treasures. My goal as a photographer is to create an appreciation for the beauty and fragility of this planet, especially water ecosystems, such as the coastal regions and estuaries in Florida.

Q: You spearheaded a  bird steward program to help protect beach-nesting birds at Stump Pass Beach State Park. How does that work? 

A: Beach-nesting birds, especially Wilson’s plovers and least terns, face numerous challenges, including habitat loss, human disturbance, and predation. The program helps protect these birds by monitoring their nests, educating the public about the importance of respecting nesting areas, and ensuring that dogs and people stay on designated trails.

Q: Can you share a memorable experience or a favorite photograph from your bird watching adventures in Florida?

A: One of my favorite experiences was while I was stewarding at Stump Pass Beach State Park. A tern flew in right in front of me to feed its baby some fish. The chick was running towards its parent to get the fish, and it was beautifully backlit by the sun. Moments like these are always memorable because they highlight the intricate and touching behaviors of wildlife. 

Q: Why is observing birds in their natural habitat so meaningful to you?

A: Observing the entire life cycle of birds is a profound experience. It allows us to see the challenges and triumphs that these creatures face daily. Watching them build nests, raise their young, and navigate their environment fosters a deep appreciation for their resilience and the need to protect their habitats.

Q: Can you tell us more about how you help with area conservation, and also about the books you've written?

A: I'm very involved with the Conservation Foundation of the Gulf Coast and am working on various projects designed to protect our natural environment. I've also written two books about threatened species: "Magical Monarch’s Journey" and "A Tale of Tern." Both are available at The Island Bookshop in downtown Venice.  They both aim to educate readers about the importance of conservation through engaging storytelling. You can find out more at my website:

Bird Watching in Venice: A Guide to Prime Locations
The Venice area boasts an extraordinary array of bird species amidst its diverse natural habitats. From the iconic Venice Audubon Rookery Park to the tranquil Myakka State Forest, and the picturesque Oscar Scherer State Park, bird watchers are in for a treat with the abundance of avian life in these three areas.

Venice Audubon Rookery Park

Renowned internationally among birders and photographers alike, the Venice Audubon Rookery Park teems with diverse bird species, providing unparalleled opportunities for enthusiasts, especially during the serene moments of dawn and dusk. The abundance of birds that pass through or roost here means visitors can witness a vibrant ecosystem in action. During nesting months from December through May, the park becomes a hive of activity as various species roost, court, build nests, and rear chicks.

Among the notable residents of the Venice Audubon Rookery Park are purple martins, great blue herons, great egrets, and anhingas, 

Myakka State Forest

Venturing into the heart of nature at the Myakka State Forest promises an immersive experience for outdoor enthusiasts and bird lovers alike. This forest, named after the river flowing through it, offers a haven for various bird species amidst its pine flatwood forests, palmettos, and marshes. Trails wind through the forest, providing ample opportunities to encounter birds darting through the underbrush or perched on branches. From wrens and woodpeckers to the elusive Kingfisher, the forest is alive with avian activity.

Myakka also boasts a treetop canopy walkway that extends over the shallow waters of Upper Myakka Lake where visitors can spot an array of waterfowl, including belted kingfishers, herons, egrets, and cormorants. Roseate spoonbills add a splash of pink to the scenery, while ospreys and eagles soar overhead, completing the picturesque tableau of avian life.

Oscar Scherer State Park

Nestled amidst the natural beauty of Sarasota County, Oscar Scherer State Park offers another enticing destination for bird watchers. Its diverse habitats, including pine flatwoods, scrubby flatwoods, and hardwood hammocks, provide a rich tapestry for birding enthusiasts. Visitors may encounter a variety of species, from Bachman sparrows and black skimmers to wood storks and limpkins.

The park's birding hotspots include its numerous trails and the shores of South Creek, where wading birds and shorebirds congregate. Keep an eye out for the distinctive silhouettes of crested caracaras and the graceful flight of the white pelicans, adding to the park's avian diversity.

My goal as a photographer is to create an appreciation for the beauty and fragility of this planet.

Observing the entire life cycle of birds is a profound experience.

  • Black skimmers flying in formation.
  • Bird family forming a triangle of love.
  • Photographer and conservationist Mary Lundeberg reading her book “A Tale of a Tern.”
  • Cormorant catches a catfish at the Venice Rookery.
  • Tricolored heron touches down on the water.
  • Whole least terns share mating gift on the shore.
  • Snowy plover is taking care of her chicks.
  • A majestic osprey catches a trout.
  • A pair of anhingas kissing.
  • Black crowned night heron in flight